SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Gov. Kate Brown issued a warning to Oregon businesses Thursday that defy her executive orders meant to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. The warning comes as some business owners say they plan to reopen Jan. 1.
Brown said she has directed Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to deploy all available resources to ensure businesses are in compliance. Businesses could face fines or closure notices.
Some Oregon mayors are also appealing to the governor to change how she categorizes counties by risk and backing the plans of business owners to reopen, KATU-TV reported.
“It’s unfortunate and irresponsible that some local politicians are choosing to willfully mislead business owners into jeopardizing public health and risking fines, instead of working with their communities to help stop the spread of COVID-19 so that we can reopen businesses, schools, and more quickly return to normal life,” Brown said.
East of Portland, Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam is encouraging his business owners to reopen even though state health officials have deemed Clackamas County and 23 other counties an “extreme risk” for spreading the coronavirus. The designation bans all indoor dining, gym openings and indoor entertainment.
In a written statement to KATU, Pulliam disputed how the county portrays COVID-19 case numbers and without evidence accused the county of manipulating data to make it look like “the numbers are out of control.”
He wrote Brown a letter earlier this month saying starting Jan. 1 members of a coalition in counties labeled “Extreme Risk” will voluntarily comply with less restrictive “High Risk” measures, which will allow restaurants and gyms to open at significantly reduced capacity. The letter also said the coalition will “follow with one level below the state mandate until the risk levels change to reflect our compromise.”
“The only way for my family and my staff to survive is to not comply with the executive order,” Westside Local restaurant owner Amber Amos in Redmond told Oregon Public Broadcasting.
“Help is on the way for struggling businesses,” Brown said in the statement. “I proposed new resources for rent relief for businesses in the third special session, and I expect a new round of federal aid to be delivered soon. We can’t waiver in our response to the virus now, when the end is finally in sight and resources are on the way.”
The Oregon Health Authority on Thursday said nine more Oregonians had died of COVID-19, raising the state’s death toll to 1,477. The authority also reported 1,682 new cases on Thursday, bringing the state total to more than 113,900 since the pandemic began.